Navigation will be made up of three different strategies:
- Web Copy
- Hierarchical Structure
- Graphics or Text Links
Your web copy needs to “lead” your customers to the sale. It needs to pull them down the page, forcing them to scroll, because they want to read what comes next. And at the bottom, it must make them want to click to the next page.
If you use buttons or graphics as part of your navigation strategy also include a text link that gives a hint of what is going to be next. Do not underline text unless it is a link.
Before you begin to think about your navigational structure – be sure to have a good idea of what you are going to say on your web pages – of what each page will do and say. Perhaps your first page will discuss benefits and then they will move off to other pages that discuss features.
The navigational structure will be developed as you write your web copy.
I will outline a very simple navigational structure, for one product. If you have more than one product you will need to think about your navigation carefully, before laying out your site.
- Opening Page – emphasis on benefits
- Secondary Page(s) – more benefits, possibly features and pictures of the product
- Guarantee and/or Warranty
- Closing Page – Ask for the Sale (This is where you want to include the prices.)
If your site is more complex than one product:
- Include a maximum of 8 links in your “main” directory.
- Organize in a hierarchical fashion – if you have more than 8 pages – think about using sub directories. Can you divide your site into sections? Your “main” directory might link to “sub” directories. For instance, at The Write Market we have several sub directories. Our main links are: home, design services, web builder course, search engine book, free web builder tools and about us. From there we break down even further and lead people to more directories. For instance, “free web builder tools” is a second level directory. “Articles” is a third level directory off of “free web builder tools”. Try to avoid going beyond third level directories. (Which I can’t say that we’ve been able to do with The Write Market.)
- You might consider keeping your product or services pages separate from the rest of your site. This means – not linking to anything else on your website that might confuse the navigation of your product and services pages. However, include one link back to your home page so that they can get out of that section if they don’t want to be there.
Graphics and Text Links
Let me start by saying that you don’t need graphics. Also, that if you do choose graphics – they had better be professional!
You can do all of your navigational links with text links. Your navigational directory or “navigational bar” may be placed at the top and bottom of all your pages, or on the left hand side of your pages.
We recommend the left rather than the right for two reasons:
1. People are used to having the directory on the left hand side.
2. Right aligning your directories can cause problems in older versions of some browsers.
If you choose text links – your “navigational bar” at the top and bottom of your pages, might look like this:
Home | Features | Testimonials | Guarantee | Order Now
Your left hand directory can be used for other links like “home”.
Always offer a link to the target response on every single page in the section that you are trying to sell something or get some kind of response. For example – “Order Now” or “Free Consultation”.
- Layout the flow of your site on paper before attempting to put it on the web.
- Write your web copy first. At least have a general feeling of what it will say before you attempt a navigational structure.
- Continually go back and re-examine your navigation – as your site gets bigger you may fall into the trap that we did – not clearly outlining the purpose of the site on the home page. For our site – it is next to impossible to outline our “target response” on every page – so we have to settle for outlining it on the home page.
- Understand that as search engines begin to index your pages – people may end up coming into your site from various pages – not necessarily your home page. Can people still find their way around if they come into your site from any page? Do people still understand the purpose of your site if they come in from any page? (This is a tough one.)
- Make sure you have links to and from your home page or wherever you keep your “main directory” on every page of your site. (This will also help the search engine spiders find their way around.)